“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

When Do You Use “Quotation Marks”?

When Do You Use Quotation Marks

A few years ago, I rented a car. Normally this wouldn’t be a memorable event. But an appalling misuse of grammar burned it into my mind, and years later, I haven’t forgotten.

You see, when I went to the airport to return the rental, I saw this wonderfully instructive sign:


And this brings me to today’s grammar lesson: how and when to use quotation marks.

The “Than” Versus “Then” Debacle

The Than Vs. Then Debacle

Sometimes you have to get back to basics. All writers are guilty of making mistakes at some point, and they kick themselves for months after an astute reader notices that they added one too many o’s to their “to.” Once that’s in print, you can’t take it back.

So today, I’d like to draw attention to one common mistake so that you will hopefully never have to take it back: the then-vs.-than debacle.

Who vs. Whom: Or, How to Misuse a Pronoun

Who vs Whom: Or How to Misuse a Pronoun

We avoided it as long as we could, but it was bound to come up sooner or later. Today, we’re covering the apparent mother of all grammatical quandaries: who vs. whom. What’s the difference between these two tricky pronouns?

3 Reasons Diaries Are Essential to Your Story


When I was in high school, a drama teacher that I had my sophomore year made everyone in my class keep a journal. He kept them in his office, but never read them, and we would write every morning we had class. Some of us took the exercise more seriously than others (there was a minimum three line requirement), but after that year, he gave us the notebooks to keep. I had enjoyed journaling so much that I continued through my senior year and every summer that I worked at camp. When I was on the World Race, I kept a journal and filled it with stories, song lyrics that had meaning to me, a couple of creative writing exercises, and musings on the day’s events. It was a great way for me to get my thoughts recorded, although it wasn’t the prettiest writing I’ve ever done, and I’m sure other people who were participants in the retold stories might remember events differently than my versions.

If you’re looking for an alternative way to tell a story, there are a couple reasons to try a diary or epistolary format.

Parataxis and Hypotaxis: How Greek Makes You a Better Writer

My elementary school experience included three years of Latin in fourth through sixth grade. Believe it or not, that language learning actually came in handy when middle school French rolled around. It has also come in handy when breaking down literary terms, many of which have their origins in Latin or Greek. Today’s Greek words: […]

Parallelism: Keep Your Verb Tenses Consistent


A few weeks ago, our group of friends was planning a potluck. One of the girls said she was planning on making vegetarian chili, cornbread, or baking cookies. I cringed internally because the flow of the sentence was wrong and hurt me on the inside. The issue: mismatched parallelism.

Why Grammar Matters


If there’s one significant thing that Joe and I have historically disagreed on, it’s the role of grammar in a writer’s toolbox. We complement each other well because as much as I love grammar and sentence structure, he equally embraces the dismissal of commas and the implementation of run-on sentences for art’s sake. When you get down to brass tacks though, I have to admit that he kind of has a point: grammar is somewhat arbitrary.

I vs. Me: Being Self Centered Can Be Good

I vs. me

We all know there is a difference between I and me. Simply put, “I” is a subject, “me” is an object. Generally speaking, there aren’t any issues when you’re only referring to yourself.

The confusion starts when your first person character is joined by third person companions.

Relative Pronouns: How Not to Ruin a Sentence

relative pronouns

Oh, relative pronouns. You crazy, crazy kids. You can cause so much frustration with your misplaced thats, whos, and whichs. Let’s have a chat and sort you all out, shall we?

Let’s say you’re telling a story about Weston, a neurologist with a bionic elbow. When do you use which relative pronoun?

Lay vs. Lie

lay vs lie

We’re tackling one of the less obvious grammatical foibles today. Did you know that there is a difference between lay and lie? Because there is! Let’s explore.

Other than the definition of “to tell an untruth,” lay and lie are often used interchangeably. But lay is a transitive verb, meaning it requires a subject and one or more objects. Lie, on the other hand, is an intransitive verb, which means that it doesn’t need an object.

So if you wanted to say that you (the subject) lay on the floor (the object) in the fetal position all day yesterday, that’s correct. If you said that you lay in said position all day regularly, that would be wrong.